Tuesday, 9/4/12

NYT 3:17 
Jonesin' untimed 
LAT 3:56 (Neville) 
CS 4:12 (Sam) 

Barry “KarmaSartre” Franklin and Sara Kaplan’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 4 12 0904

Interesting theme: A random assortment of trivia relating to the number 27. It’s a PERFECT CUBE to a mathematician. It’s the number of MOONS OF URANUS (heh, heh) to an astronomer. (Quibble: there’s no hint of “the number of” in the clue or answer, and it doesn’t parse right without it. If you ask an astronomer, “What is 27?” they’re not going to answer, “Moons of Uranus.”) Also the number of WORLD SERIES WINS for a Yankees fan (repeat quibble here). Not to mention the number of HEBREW LETTERS (quibble three). And, the most familiar trivia factoid to me (the perfect cube thing isn’t trivia—it’s just plain ol’ math) is that TWENTY-SEVEN is the [Age at which Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse died].

I liked a lot of the vocabulary in this puzzle: GRUFF, CYNICS, EARTHY, AL GORE, MALAWI, NECCO wafers, and LEGGY are all answers that we don’t see in too many crosswords. Now, HEISS (which is German for “hot”) is something we don’t see in many crosswords, and here that’s a good thing. [Carol __, five-time world figure-skating champion]?? I suspect I’ve seen this name once before in a crossword. It crosses crosswordese STELA, which crosses nonstandard SNAX. Old-timey-famous Kay KYSER is a name I know only from crosswords, and its crossing TER ([Thrice, in prescriptions]) is really not remotely in current medical usage. The abbreviation tid, which is short for the Latin ter in die, is perfectly ordinary medicalese, but TER on its own, no. ESTE and OLEA are also on the repeater watch list.

I wish the theme clues didn’t elide the whole “number of” part that would help them make perfect sense. Between that and the unfortunate bits of fill, 2.9 stars.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, September 4

The theme looks to be terms beginning with musical words:

  • 20-Across: The [One with a good fashion sense] is a SHARP DRESSER. I learned an important lesson in the mid-1980s: every girl’s crazy about a sharp-dressed man.
  • 33-Across: One who [Sick in bed] is FLAT ON ONE’S BACK. One who’s curled on one’s back, on the other hand, is imitating fried bacon.
  • 40-Across: To [Deep-six] is to PITCH OVERBOARD. Another clue for that entry could be [Sell someone on the merits of a Goldie Hawn film].
  • 55-Across: The [Honor granted by a municipality] is a KEY TO THE CITY. One receiving such an honor in Islamorada, Florida, gets a key to the Key.

So in today’s installment of Name That Puzzle–the new gimmick where I get to guess the puzzle’s title–I clearly need to think of a title that relates to something musical. Let’s see, sharps and flats appear on a musical staff, and I suppose one would find information about the pitch and key there too. So I think I should be looking for something to do with “staff.” Staff Meetings is a little bland. Staff Infection makes me smile, but there’s no real “infection” here (this is an “insert-a-letter-sequence” gimmick), and the title might be a little off-putting to too many solvers. Since all of the music terms appear at the front, maybe it’s Staff Entrances? Okay, I’ll go with that one.

Whoops, it’s “Clef Notes.” Conservatively, that’s about thirty times better than my guess. Mine was a little too cryptic, and I think the title here is intended to help solvers and not to be an extra layer for solvers to suss out. Lesson learned.

As for the puzzle itself, well, in musical terms, it’s suffering from a bit of a tin ear. Most glaringly, we have TWO (clued as [This plus that]) lurking very close to the clue for BOTH, [Two out of two] (my emphasis). That’s…not good. You see, there’s this convention that an answer in the grid should not be repeated in the clues. While the convention is rightly ignored for little orts like TO, AT, THE, IN, and the like, it sticks out a little too much with a word like TWO. [This and that] would have have been a much better clue, no?

Next, though there’s nothing “wrong” with any of them, I’m not a fan of entries like ASSAY, MTN, RLS, ORA, GRATIA, EST, and the non-breath-freshening SERTS. If you’re feeding solvers with a steady diet of this bland kibble, at least give us some succulent wet food to make it go down better. Here, there aren’t many highlights.  I like SAYS SO and the crossing U-HAUL and U-MASS. But that’s about it. Everything else is ordinary.

I’m willing to bet a nickel that more than a few solvers struggled with the intersection of BRAE, the [Highlands hillside], and NICAD, the [Type of storage battery]. And if one does not know Bart STARR or Ars GRATIA Artis, that whole section might go blank for a long time.

Just so we end on a happy note, I did enjoy the clue for METEORS, [Shower components]. Clever!

Gail Grabowski & Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 9 4 12

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 9 4 12

Second things first in this puzzle:

  • 20a. [Socioeconomic tension] – CLASS STRUGGLE
  • 27a. [Skinny guy’s nickname] – STRING BEAN
  • 38a. [Wages sans overtime] – BASE PAY
  • 47a. [Informational stroll through the forest] – NATURE WALK
  • 55a. [“Same here,” and what might be said about the start of 20-, 27-, 38- or 47-Across] – I’LL SECOND THAT

Second class, second string… you get the picture. Would it have made more sense to have the second word of each theme entry be the “second” thing? Eh, I think it’s great either way.

As usual in a Grabowski/Venzke puzzle, the long fill’s great: APPLIQUEBAZAAR and LOVE BIRD, ROLL BAR and LIE-ABED all PIQUE my interest.

Call me a bad Catholic, but I didn’t know that a PRELATE is a [Church dignitary]. I thought that if you were on time, you were pre-late. It was a toss-up between NIBS and NEBS for [Cardinals’ beaks]; did you choose wisely at first? In line with this puzzle’s theme, my second try was correct.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Outside Protection”

Jonesin’ crossword solution, 9 4 12 “Outside Protection”

What protects a banana? The PEEL on the outside. Each of this week’s Jonesin’ theme answers has a PEEL in that the letter PE and EL enclose the other letters in each phrase.

  • 18a. [Crunchy stuff in a walkway], PEA GRAVEL.
  • 24a. [He released the album “So”], PETER GABRIEL. Am fond of that album. I bought the cassette when it came out.
  • 40a. [Trucker’s less-green alternative to biofuel], PETROLEUM DIESEL. I’ve never seen “diesel” preceded by “petroleum” before.
  • 54a. [What a mom might picture a secretly-bratty kid to be], PERFECT ANGEL.
  • 62a. [Staff], PERSONNEL.

This puzzle seems to have a negative attitude. See MANGY, PASTY, BLEARY DWEEB HOUND. “I know you are, but what am I?”

Five things:

  1. 13d. [2012 acronym akin to “Be adventurous”], YOLO. From the Drake rap “The Motto,” short for “you only live once.” Because teenagers are exactly the people who need to be encouraged to throw caution to the wind.
  2. 6d. [Good or bad figure?], COP. As a parent, I play both roles regularly.
  3. 3d. [Advice to the angry], COUNT TO TEN. If you’re still mad, then count backwards from 100 by 3s. It takes a lot more of your focus.
  4. AS I, A GIRL, A NEED, IN E = four partials. CDC, NCAA, AGT, SSN, YSL, MRI, LDL = seven abbrevs. CII = one Roman numeral. EIN, AB OVO, ETRE, AMIE, AUF, SOLEIL = six foreigns. OOX = tic-tac-toe. At the not-so-common names party, we have ITALO, LENO, ANDIE, VAL, SELA, ESAI, CLAIRE, and GLEN.
  5. And it’s an 80-word grid. Less juicy stuff in it than I would have expected.

2.9 stars.

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18 Responses to Tuesday, 9/4/12

  1. Evad says:

    Enjoyed the fill in this a lot, but felt the theme revealer was kind of a downer.

  2. ArtLvr says:

    I started the NYT at the bottom, so the number was neat & various theme answers were quite a kick! Would rate it much higher than the reviewer, so original… MOONS OF URANUS tied in nicely with this past weekend’s brilliant Blue Moon too if your skies were clear. As for the CS, I liked the fill FLAT ON ONE’S BACK, etc. but PITCH is tricky for those who don’t know there are CLEFS other than C and G for particular instruments! (Did I get that right? It’s been a while.)

    • M says:

      In modern notation, only the C, F, and G clefs exist generally. A clef’s vertical placement on the staff tells you what each following note’s pitch should be. Really, the pitch entry is the one that best relates to the puzzle’s title!

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: It would be interesting to know from the constructors how this unusual theme came about. It’s fascinating, how people’s minds work! At one point, I thought I’d jump ahead and guess a number for the revealer, and I put down ThirTYthrEe. It felt too old though, and this made me realize how young these musicians really were at the time of their death. So sad…

    I liked seeing the LEGGY, JOWLy, GRUFF person from MALAWI lurking around the puzzle. But NUREMBERG added another note of sadness. Or maybe I’m sad that summer is over…

    I wonder what would rate as the funniest (most comical) NYT puzzle?

    • Sara says:

      Well, Huda, I’ll bite!

      Last summer, right after Amy Winehouse died, Barry and I were emailing back and forth (we live 3000 miles away from each other) about the so-called 27 curse and wondering, morbidly, if there was any sort of puzzle there (because, yeah, we’re both pretty low on good taste). I must have been talking about it simultaneously with my 12-year-old son, Billy, because he chimed in that 27 was a great number because it was the number of Yankee World Series wins. That pretty much gave us marching orders on what to do about developing a 27 theme. For better or for worse, by the end of the day the puzzle was complete.

      A few weeks ago, when the Yankees were eight games up, I thought this puzzle might be obsolete before it was published. Unfortunately (for a Yankee fan): not so much of a threat any more.

      • Huda says:

        Thanks Sara! Very cool. Now I’m thinking that CURSE should have been shoved in there somewhere…

        And it sounds to me like Billy deserves an authorship :)

  4. Noam D. Elkies says:

    The usual count of Hebrew letters is 22, but five of them have variant ending forms ךםןףץ so 27 is legitimate though not entirely standard, e.g. one would never count Arabic letters that way (and while we’re at it why not also count the two forms of Shin ש separately?). The “Perfect cube” angle also suggests Rubik.

    • Huda says:

      In Arabic, you’d more than double the count if you include the forms of the letters as written at the beginning, middle or end of a word. I’m surprised that it only adds 5 variants to the Hebrew alphabet. I’ll need to learn more about it (but writing this grant to the “NIH” is getting in the way…)

    • Lois says:

      I very much enjoyed the NYT puzzle, but the point Noam makes was bothering me all day. I’ve just started to check out what other people said, that is, those who are a little familiar with Hebrew. I thought the extra five letters were not the ending letters, which I didn’t think of, but those dotted consonants that are pronounced differently. That is, bet and vet, same letter with and without a dot; kaf and khaf, likewise; peh and pheh, again; and then tof and sof, although the last two are pronounced the same (tof) in modern Hebrew. That makes four, and then shin and sin, with the dots on the right and then the left sides, as Noam points out. That would make five, totaling 27, but I am aware that other consonants may be dotted without having such well-known differences in pronunciation.

      Sara has been lurking around this page, so maybe she can respond and explain what was meant.

      Here is a link to a page where all the variants (except the last pair, tof-sof or tav-sav) are included, and that would make a different number (the transliteration of the names of the letters there is often different from mine.):


      By the way, unlike Zulema below, I was crazy about the Yiddish puzzle last week.

  5. Andrea says:

    Anyone else notice that “NEO(CON)” crossed “HYENA”?

  6. I am surprised that the Yankees’ 27 titles is in here, considering the Times likes puzzles to have a six-year shelf life. Odds are pretty good (better than say, the Houston Astros) that they’ll win a 28th Series in the next few years. And a minor quibble with WINS instead of TITLES, because it takes four WINS in a series to win a TITLE. But that may be just jealousy, because my Twins have won a mere two titles and are flirting with 100 losses for the second year in a row :)

    • Huda says:

      I’ve often thought that when old NYT puzzles are published in booklets, magazines and such, it would really be helpful to have the names of the constructors and the date including the day of the week and the year. That would give context to a lot of information (including the number of wins or titles for a given team) , and would generally help in terms of mindset.

      • Dan F says:

        When NYT puzzles are republished by St. Martin’s Press in various configurations, the constructors are always credited. The day of the week is sometimes specified (if the book has all levels of puzzle, not just “easy” or “hard”), and the year is never given, except on the copyright page. It will say “These puzzles were originally published between January 12, 2011 and March 25, 2012” or some such. But since they still repackage 10- or 15-year-old puzzles, it’s not wise to advertise how out-of-date they may be…

    • john farmer says:

      I agree that TITLES is more precise than WINS, but I don’t think WINS is wrong. A “win” could be a game or a series. It could go either way.

      An example of a real error is at Scientific American today: “A baby born in the U.S. this year is likely to live to blow out 78 birthday candles—a far longer average life span than someone born even in the 1960s.” Since they’re referring to 78 birthdays (not 12), give or take a year, that probably should be “3,081 candles.”

  7. Zulema says:

    Very interesting and different NYT crossword. Learned something (moons of Uranus) and really thought it was a superior Tuesday puzzle. I was gone last week and have been catching up since I came back. But It’s never too late to say I absolutely loved last Wednesday’s puzzle (Goethe) and absolutely hated Thursday’s (so-called Yiddish). Caleb’s Saturday puzzle I found totally abstruse and could not solve it without looking at the solution.

    Since I am not a Yankee fan, the middle theme entry for me today just echoed the commercial “twenty-seven up-twenty seven down-baseball immortality! ” which I mute when it comes on. So why do I watch the Yankees? We’ll leave that to your imagination.

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